Monthly Archives: April 2018

Monday’s Verse 4/16/2018

All:

Beer, poetry, puns, and basically I’m in heaven. Alert reader Kevin Sullivan of Medford, Mass., texted me on Saturday night to introduce Shakesbeer Brewing Company, creating craft ales brewed "as you like it." He indicated that each new variety would have its own sonnet; from the website I can find only quatrains of their 2 first samples, "Act One," and "The Tempest." I commend their mastery of meter! Alas, they are still 6 lines short.

What a rabbit hole I found, though… did you know that Southern Tier (popular in northwest PA, where I spend way too much time) brews a Sonnet Ale? Or that a Toronto brewpub calls itself Sonnet 43, after Elizabeth Barrett Browning? We’ve read that one here before. The greybeards among us will remember, in fact, that the very first MV poem, before the listserv was even called Monday’s Verse, celebrated a 20th Century English poem that balances the joys of malt vs. those of Milton.

But then I found a sonnet by a man named Beer, and I said, That’s our sonnet for today. John Beer, not to be confused with the British Literary Critic who died last year, has an MFA from Iowa and currently teaches at Portland State U. I like his poem here. But what I want to speak about stems from his "prison yard" reference. As you age and drink less, are you wondering what to do with all that leftover beer money? How about supporting a poetry-in-prisons workshop and book project? Mosey on over to the Poetry Asylum kickstarter page to learn more, and don’t be shy to plop down a 6-pack’s worth on literary arts for, and from, people most affected by our incarceration addiction. And enjoy your week! -ed

SONNETS TO MORPHEUS ["I know kung fu"]

I know kung fu.” It won’t bring back the world.

5:15 a.m.: I wake from another dream,

the same as every dream. A man builds a ship

in my chest. Each of the sailors

carries by her breast a picture of her sister.

The ship is not the image of a ship.

Beyond its sails there are no stars.

The water is only water because it’s black.

5:15 a.m. Perhaps you’ve seen me

practicing my moves in the empty prison yard

and wondered whether you were the dreamer

conjuring me into existence from the bare

desire to caress a phantom ship

and my death the death of your desire.

-2010

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Monday’s Verse 4/10/2018

Dear readers,

Alert reader Jamsheed Siyar asked last week, Why is April National Poetry Month? Is it something to do with April being the cruel(l)est month? I don’t know, I said. Is it perhaps maybe something to do with Chaucer’s pilgrims having set out in April, when sweet showers pierce the drought of March?

So I have 2 things for you today: 1) Can someone tell us the origin of Nat’l poetry month and, specifically, why it is April? Is there a reason for that at all?

2) With that in mind, I thought I’d play us some Chaucer (1343-1400) — but not "The Canterbury Tales," no, too on the nose. Instead, a brief excerpt from Book I of "Troilus & Criseyde," his epic poem of knightly love set against the backdrop of the Trojan War. And lo, there’s another April reference, right there in line 2! This section is the one that really introduces the 2 title characters. People complain about Middle English but come on, it’s no Beowulf. And really, once you read a few lines out loud, you’ll be able to hear the meaning of those strange words, archaic spellings, and shifty syntaxes.

I’ll point out, in conclusion, that Chaucer uses Rime Royal in this poem, a 7-line stanza structure that he introduced to English poetry. Each line is in iambic pentameter, and the rhyme scheme is A-B-A-B-B-C-C. Genius. It’s got a "wise old friend" gait to it. Enjoy! -ed.

from TROILUS AND CRISEYDE: Book I

And so bifel, whan comen was the tyme

Of Aperil, whan clothed is the mede

With newe grene, of lusty Veer the pryme,

And swote smellen floures white and rede,

In sondry wises shewed, as I rede,

The folk of Troie hir observaunces olde,

Palladiones feste for to holde.

And to the temple, in al hir beste wyse,

In general ther wente many a wight,

To herknen of Palladion the servyse;

And namely, so many a lusty knyght,

So many a lady fressh and mayden bright,

Ful wel arayed, both meste, mene, and leste,

Ye, bothe for the seson and the feste.

Among thise othere folk was Criseyda,

In widewes habit blak; but natheles,

Right as our firste lettre is now an A,

In beautee first so stood she, makeles;

Hire goodly lokyng gladed al the prees.

Nas nevere yet seyn thing to ben preysed derre,

Nor under cloude blak so bright a sterre

As was Criseyde, as folk seyde everichone

That hir bihelden in hir blake wede;

And yet she stood ful lowe and stille allone,

Byhynden other folk, in litel brede,

And neigh the dore, ay under shames drede,

Simple of atir and debonaire of chere,

With ful assured lokyng and manere.

This Troilus, as he was wont to gide

His yonge knyghtes, lad hem up and doun

In thilke large temple on every side,

Byholding ay the ladies of the town,

Now here, now there; for no devocioun

Hadde he to non, to reven hym his reste,

But gan to preise and lakken whom hym leste.

And in his walk ful faste he gan to wayten

If knyght or squyer of his compaignie

Gan for to syke, or lete his eighen baiten

On any womman that he koude espye;

He wolde smyle, and holden it folye,

And seye him thus, "God woot, she slepeth softe

For love of the, whan thou turnest ful ofte!"

Monday’s Verse 4/2/2018

Readers:

It’s amazing when the opening of National Poetry Month, Easter, April Fool’s Day, Passover, Persian New Year, and the Final Four all fall across the same stretch of 3-4 days, right? Everyone’s happy, right?

Elizabeth Acevedo ("Bet I have zeal code") is a slam champion, published poet, and novelist. You know how you can be a poetry slam champ? By majoring in performing arts as an undergrad, and getting an MFA in creative writing, as she did — both in and around DC. She’s also been a fellow at Cave Canem, the African American poetry collective based right here in Pittsburgh.

I have a few poems and other things in life that, if I take the shortest glance at them, I’ll burst into tears. Ms. Acevedo is talking about some of these things in her poem today. And if I’ve had a glass of wine with dinner, or without dinner, I’m right there with her on the insurance commercial. -ed.

YOU MEAN YOU DON’T WEEP AT THE NAIL SALON?

it’s the being alone, i think, the emails but not voices. dominicans be funny, the way we love to touch — every greeting a cheek kiss, a shoulder clap, a loud.

it gots to be my period, the bloating, the insurance commercial where the husband comes home after being deployed, the last of the gouda gone, the rejection letter, the acceptance letter, the empty inbox.

a dream, these days. to work at home is a privilege, i remind myself.

spend the whole fucking day flirting with screens. window, tv, computer, phone: eyes & eyes & eyes. the keys clicking, the ding of the 
microwave, the broadway soundtrack i share wine with in the evenings.

these are the answers, you feel me? & the impetus. the why. of when the manicurist holds my hand, making my nails a lilliputian abstract,

i close my fingers around hers, disrupting the polish, too tight i know then, too tight to hold a stranger, but she squeezes back & doesn’t let go & so finally i can.

-2018